• Robert Spicer

Class justice and the rule of law: John Wynne killed in the Royal Mint in 2000

The case of John Wynne and the Royal Mint

The case of John Wynne, employed by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, South Wales, has highlighted the legal rules and procedures surrounding Crown immunity as a clear example of class justice. The facts, in summary, were that in 2001 Mr Wynne (W), suffered fatal crushing injuries when a six-tonne furnace fell from a crane. W, aged 50, had worked in the metal rolling department of the Mint for 21 years.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found itself unable to prosecute the Mint for breaches of health and safety legislation. Instead, it brought Crown Censure proceedings. At the hearing of these proceedings it was stated that the Mint had failed to follow safety procedures. The hearing was not open to the public. A report of the hearing was sent to the government, the Royal Mint and the HSE. W’s widow was not entitled to a copy of the report.

W’s widow is reported to have commented that she was shown pictures at the hearing which showed the furnace hanging from a crane, but not sitting on the hook properly. The furnace was balancing on the top and it fell. It had fallen once before, and no-one was hurt. The Mint’s management had not carried out safety checks. If they had done so, they would have realised that it was faulty and the accident could never have happened.

An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following points to the hearing:

• W’s death was an accident waiting to happen.

• There was sufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution against the Mint.

• Although Crown property, including the Mint, has to comply with health and safety regulations, it cannot be prosecuted because the Crown cannot prosecute itself.

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